Elle McNicoll has been named overall winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2021 for her debut novel A Kind of Spark (Knights of Media).
Now in its 17th year, the prize consists of £5,000 and the promise of ongoing commitment to the winners’ writing and illustrating careers, making it one of the most valuable and prestigious children’s book awards in the UK.
McNicoll is a Scottish and neurodivergent author who wrote her debut novel because she grew tired of the lack of inclusivity and representation in children’s books. She said winning the prize was “absolutely staggering” adding: “I will never say ‘I can’t’ again. To know that booksellers chose A Kind of Spark, out of an incredible shortlist like this, it is the highlight of my debut. I’m so grateful to Waterstones for their support and I’m proud and extremely emotional to see Addie join past winners.”
Her story follows 11-year-old Addie as she campaigns for a memorial in memory of the witch trials that took place in her hometown. Confronted with resistance against the memorial and unjust prejudice against herself, Addie must figure out how to make her voice heard.
The prize is voted for solely by booksellers. Florentyna Martin, the retailer’s children’s buyer, said: “We have fallen in love with Addie, whose courage and determination are a guiding light, often reminding the world that kindness must prevail wherever we go. Elle McNicoll is undoubtedly an outstanding new talent in children’s books and will inspire readers young and old for generations to come.”
The chain is offering an exclusive edition of A Kind of Spark, which also won the younger reader’s category, featuring a letter by the author to her younger self and the first chapter from her second book Show Us Who You Are (Knights Of).
Darren Charlton’s Wranglestone (Little Tiger), a love story between two boys and also a post-apocalyptic zombie thriller, won the older readers’ category and The Grumpy Fairies (Frances Lincoln Publishers) by Bethan Stevens took the category for illustrated books.
Charlton said: “Because Wranglestone has been chosen by a range of booksellers from across the UK, I hope this win proves that there is a readiness in readers for the LGBTQ+ experience to expand into genres still dominated by their heterosexual counterparts, and this causes publishers to make bolder choices in the books they decide children and teenagers should read. But ultimately, this is a win for LGBTQ+ teenagers by showing you that your story can be for the many and not just the few. I am so touched and so very grateful that my two boys ever found such an open-hearted tribe to champion them.”
Stevens commented: “I’m so thrilled that The Grumpy Fairies has won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize illustrated book category, I can’t quite believe it’s true! It has been such a privilege to have been included on the shortlist with so many other talented authors and illustrators and it means so much to me that more readers will get to enjoy the antics of the grumpy fairies as a result of the award.”